Club History

Coolhurst Lawn Tennis and Squash Club is a thriving private Members’ Club, founded in 1903, with exceptional sporting facilities and a unique ambience, set in tranquil grounds in a leafy oasis in North London. We welcome new members of all ages and all levels of play.

Gullermo Vilas at Coolhurst 1977

Gullermo Vilas at Coolhurst 1977

If you have any information which you think might enrich our historical archive, please contact the Club House Manager on 020 8340 4272 or  07894934933 or email: clubhousemanager@coolhurst.co.uk

From little acorns…

…grew the mighty oak that is Coolhurst – appropriate enough, as our emblem is an oak tree above the ‘hurst’ or stream which supposedly runs beneath our land.

Founded as a tennis club in 1903 by members of the Crouch End YMCA, Coolhurst started life as the Fairfield Tennis Club with twenty-four members. A year later the club took over four courts on the current site and became the Coolhurst Lawn Tennis Club.

By the time Coolhurst became independent of the YMCA in 1907, the club had eleven courts and over five hundred members, and the expansion continued until, in the late 1930s, the first two squash courts were built. With squash players came an application to serve alcohol… and the bar, originally operated on a voluntary basis by members, was opened for evening and weekend service.

At the time when two more squash courts were built there was a large summer pavilion (the original clubhouse) abutting the grass courts, although the main clubhouse was now the one-storey building between the pairs of squash courts. In the mid 1980s the tennis section relinquished one court to allow for the building of the existing clubhouse – and the old clubhouse took on a new life as a fitness studio with a gym – a function it keeps to this day with the addition of treatment rooms.

Coolhurst was the first club in London to install a revolutionary ‘balloon’ for winter tennis – and this structure survived long after its expected life-span until it was replaced in 2004 with a ‘double-bubble’. The construction of three additional tennis courts on adjoining land belonging to St Aloysius School brings the total to tennis courts to fourteen – seven all-weather, three artificial grass and three much coveted grass courts.

 

Historic Timeline

1903 to 1936

1903 Coolhurst founded as Fairfield Tennis Club – with 24 members.

1919 In the post-war era leisure took on greater importance, and hard courts were laid under the aegis of Nuthurst Hard Courts Tennis Club, with Mr R E F Johns, the father in-law of the current President, Mrs Katie Johns, as Secretary.

1920 Five new shale courts were opened for play.

1921 A small private limited company – Nuthurst Proprietary Ltd – was formed to buy the freehold of the land for the princely sum of £900, and £550 was invested in the building of the hard-courts pavilion.

1936 A loan of £1,640 financed the building of two squash courts (1 & 2) – Coolhurst’s squash section was born! With squash players came an application to serve alcohol… and the bar, originally operated on a voluntary basis by members, was opened for evening and weekend service.

1954 to 1982

1954 Ever looking to build the Coolhurst empire, Nuthurst bought the drive area – now the carpark – for £50.

1956 In the same acquisitive frame of mind, the freehold of the grass courts was secured.

1964 The first tennis balloon in the UK was bought for £4000. With lighting and heating, this allowed play in any weather during the winter.

Vilas and Tiriac at Coolhurst 1977

Vilas and Tiriac at Coolhurst 1977

1971 Squash courts 3 and 4 were built.

1981 Peter Johns presented the first Gareth Pugh Memorial Handicap Trophy to Paul Millman.

1982 New all-weather tennis courts with floodlighting were laid, extending playing time into the autumn and winter evenings.

1986 to 2014

1986 The current clubhouse was opened on the site of former tennis court 9.

1989 The former clubhouse sited between the pair of squash courts was opened as a fitness studio with a gym.

1990 The area above squash courts 3 and 4 was restructured as a stepped viewing area, with a glass back on court 3 providing a show court facility.

2003 Coolhurst celebrated one hundred years with a black-tie dinner. Previously run as an individual enterprise by two club members, the studio and gym were re-opened as a club facility and provided members with fitness classes, Pilates, treatment rooms and a versatile function room for evening events.

2009 Three new all-weather tennis courts were opened on the area of St Aloysius school’s playing field overlooking the club. Greg Rusedski and local MP Lynne Featherstone got play started on the new courts which marked a new era of the club promoting junior sport and co-operation with local schools. The planning now turns to extending squash facilities…

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Peter Nicol opening the new squash court complex, 2012

2012 A state of the art squash complex was opened at an extraordinary opening day which combined the annual Club Championship Finals with exhibition matches featuring Peter Nicol, Peter Barker, Daryl Selby and Alison Waters. A brass band accompanied Club Chairman Penny Chalmers, a former lyric soprano with the Royal Opera House who sang to a packed house on one of the hottest days of the year.

The “Phase II” development featured four international singles courts, convertible into two international doubles courts, a facility which marked Coolhurst as unique across the South of England, almost doubling the number of squash courts available for member play. The area beneath the new courts was earmarked for future development into new changing rooms and studios as part of Phase III, and the old court 3 was converted into a high spec gym.

2013 Under the auspices of Squash Secretary Nick Sutcliffe, a Coolhurst and Middlesex County Champion, the club launched it’s first ever foray into the Premier Squash League, the most prestigious league in the World. The debut team featured German National Champion and World No. 11, Simon Rosner, a World No. 11, and Madeline Perry, a former World No. 3, alongside Egyptian Omar Abdel Meguid and Malaysian Ong Beng Hee as its star recruits.

 

The Johns Dynasty

Mr REF Johns, OBE was one of the founding members of Coolhurst – and with no honours boards available for the first ten years of the club’s history, it’s not possible to tell if he shone at tennis in the formative years. However, his wife appears on the early boards as Club Champion in 1931 and 1933, at which latter date she shared the honours with her son Peter, who won the singles.

Peter Johns won the Club Championship again in 1935, and then, after the hiatus of the war, had an unbroken run of seven men’s doubles titles between 1949 and 1955, on all but one occasion with regular partner, Dr Dickie. Gebhard and Reynolds then stepped in, allowing Peter Johns just two more doubles titles in 1958 and 1961. In mixed doubles, he won 13 titles, nine of which he shared with wife Katie and two with the seven-times squash champion, Miss J M Broad.

Once Coolhurst had squash courts, Peter was first to take the Championship, and he held on to it until 1952 with breaks only for the duration of the war and when one Brown wrested it from him – seven squash titles in all.

Katie and Peter Johns

Peter succeeded his father as Coolhurst President and, following his death In 1992, Katie was persuaded to continue the Johns links with the club and become President.

Katie Johns joined Coolhurst in 1948 as Katie Whitefield and won her first singles title that year – then as Mrs P M Johns, she won seven more singles championships over the next eleven years. She, like Peter, won 13 doubles titles, the first in 1950 and the last in 1966, nine of which she shared with regular partner Joan Plant. Miss Whitefield played with P M Johns in her first year to claim the mixed doubles title, then they shared nine more titles together, and she accrued a total of 13 mixed doubles honours, the last three from 1965 to 1967 with Jim Wakeley.

In 1981 Peter Johns presented the first Gareth Pugh Memorial Handicap Trophy to Paul Millman.

 

R.A.F. ‘Bundy’ Reynolds

Surely Coolhurst’s longest-enduring tennis phenomenon, Bundy Reynolds appears first on the honours boards in 1951, when he won the Men’s Singles Championship. He followed up this success with further wins in 1952,53, 56,57, 59, 61, 63, 64 and 65.

Bundy left his mark on the Men’s Doubles Championship too – winning with John Gebhard in 1956, 57, 59 and 60. As a veteran, Bundy competed in the Veteran Grass court Championships of Great Britain, to take the over-65 men’s singles title in 1978, 79, 80, 81 and 83, and the over-70 singles title in 1985 and 1986. In the Over 65s category, he and partner L C Mallett won the doubles championship of Great Britain in 1978, and was runner up in 1979, 81 and 82 with partners E Wittman, E C Roberts and R G Smith respectively.

Coming from an Eastern European family, most of his ancestors perished in pogroms and, later, Nazi purges – so Bundy always considered himself enormously blessed to enjoy life as a free man in England – and he kept this view of life, despite the early death of his son while still only in his thirties or early forties.

Fellow veteran Pat Lawrence remembered ruefully that he would often get through the semi-final of a tournament – only to have Bundy beat him comprehensively in the final. Ivor Freeman, who played regular games with Bundy in his latter years, recalls a truly ‘crafty’ player- a man with all-round skill who didn’t need power to take apart the game of players much younger and much more powerful than he was … right until his sight failed in one eye … and he lost his killer backhand.

When no longer allowed to drive due to his failing sight, his wife would drive him to Coolhurst to play- and he was still playing until shortly before his death around 1993, in his late eighties – possibly even nineties.